Guys will never know how this feels, and I envy them. But one of the things women have to contend with when they train competitively is the Dreaded Cycle. And it's especially hard once you hit the Even Most Dreaded Perimenopause (Don't Tell Me What the Real Thing Feels Like). Your cycle goes up and down, as any cycle would. That means your hormonal balance isn't, well, balanced. As anyone who's ever lived with a woman knows. But this isn't about mood swings (much). It's about the other things your body experiences when them friendly hormones go funky.

Fatigue, water retention, cramps (muscular and otherwise), headaches, dizziness, are all part of the mix, to varying degrees. And so - JOY! - are hot flashes. While you're training. And there you are, doing your darnedest to ignore everything, and suddenly you are totally red in the face, flapping your shirt like a fool and wondering why Mother Nature has to be so cruel as to put boiling lava inside your veins.

Yes, it does cramp my style a bit. A new thing that's started happening to me about a year ago, is loose joints in the middle and very end of the cycle. Everything goes funny; my ankles hurt, the bones in my feet are so weird it's painful to walk or jog or bounce, my wrists are so loose it hurts to punch, my elbows are wobbly, my knees painful, and my shoulders hurt with every hook punch. When I'm lucky, this can go on for 4-5 days straight. It's not an injury, and it doesn't cause any permanent damage - eventually the hormones go back down and my joints feel normal again. But while it lasts it hurts, and that pain sure is distracting.

I have found taking extra iron, sleeping plenty, drinking ginger/turmeric/cinnamon tea and also lots of water to be helpful in dealing with these issues (also, to be honest, taking the odd day off training), but I'm curious to hear from other female athletes how they deal with it. I'm not interested in hormone treatments (birth control or otherwise) because I don't believe taking drugs to mess with my system just for convenience's sake is a great idea - Mother Nature has a way of biting you in the butt when you try to interfere too hard with her plans. But you know, other than that, tips are most welcome.